<!-- Begin meta tags generated by ORblogs --> </meta name="keywords" content="progressive, liberal, politics, government, edit, language, grammar, accuracy, honesty, clarity, world, news, media" /> </> <!-- End meta tags generated by ORblogs -->> Editor at Large: What's the big secret?

Monday, October 10, 2005

What's the big secret?

Raise your hand if you've heard this one. In 2001, President Bush signed Executive Order 13233, under which a former president's private papers can be released only with the approval of both the former president (or his heirs) and the current one. Before that executive order, the National Archives had controlled the release of presidential documents, under the Presidential Records Act of 1978. The act stipulated that all papers, except those pertaining to national security, had to be made available 12 years after a president left office.

Now, however, Mr. Bush can prevent the public from knowing not only what he did in office, but what Bill Clinton, Poppy Bush, and Ronald Reagan did. (Although Reagan's term ended more than 12 years before the executive order, the Bush administration had filed paperwork in early 2001 to stop the clock, and thus his papers fall under it.) Clinton publicly objected to the executive order, saying he wanted all his papers open, but Bush went ahead and signed the order anyway.

As author Kitty Kelley points out, President Bush's signature on Executive Order 13233 "stopped the National Archives from a planned release of documents from the Reagan era, some of which might have shed light on the Iran-contra scandal and illuminated the role played by the vice president at the time, George H.W. Bush."

Kelley also says that, because executive orders are not acts of Congress, "they can be overturned by future commanders in chief. Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, has repeatedly introduced legislation to overturn Mr. Bush's executive order, but the chances of this Republican Congress defying Bush are slim. There is also a lawsuit by the American Historical Association and other academic and archival groups before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. A successful verdict could force the National Archives to ignore the executive order and begin making public records from the Reagan and elder Bush administrations."

"Unless one of these efforts succeeds," Kelley says, "George W. Bush and his father can see to it that their administrations pass into history without examination. Their rationales for waging wars in the Middle East will go unchallenged. There will be no chance to weigh the arguments that led the administration to condone torture by our armed forces. The problems of federal agencies entrusted with public welfare during times of national disaster - 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina - will be unaddressed. Details on no-bid contracts awarded to politically connected corporations like Halliburton will escape scrutiny, as will the president's role in Environmental Protection Agency's policies on water and air polluters."

If the truth does, indeed, set us free, then obstruction of truth keeps us all prisoner. And George W. Bush is obstructiing the truth.



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